For a friend … A Palm Of The Hand story..

Summer In The City

Dad (Enrique, known as Quique or Papito to everyone) was a railroad man. He started working for a railroad company shortly after he moved to New York State from Puerto Rico. Over the years he changed jobs several times but each time he worked for a railroad company. He worked for Erie Lackawana, Nickel Plate, and Norfolk & Western, which later became Norfolk & Southern, the company he retired from.

One of the benefits that came with working for a railroad company was free passage to anywhere in the U.S. Most vacations were spent visiting family in Puerto Rico, but we did have family that lived in Brooklyn and other areas of NY State and so we used the free tickets to visit those relatives.

I loved the clickety clack sounds of the train wheels on the tracks, the whistle blowing, watching the towns slip by the windows, my first glimpse at farm life, the thrill of seeing the train tracks rushing beneath me as I walked from car to car, and later the hustle and bustle of Grand Central Station. And so when tickets were available I was the first one to jump at the chance of a train ride.

Occasionally one the children went to stay with Papito’s cousins in Brooklyn. For some reason I always went during the hottest part of the summer. The family I stayed with lived on the second floor of a brownstone with a tiny back yard accessible from that apartment only through the only window in the kitchen, where there was a fire escape. However, the family didn’t like the window open for fear of intruders entering. Still, since I wasn’t allowed out on the busy sidewalk, the fire escape was the only place to get some relief from the heat and I sat out there every chance I had.

One sweltering summer day in 1966, my last summer visit there, I was alone in the apartment. Knowing no one would be home for a while and feeling faint from the heat, I retreated to the fire escape, sitting in the shade with my eyes closed, enjoying the faint breeze. After a while I noticed a radio playing music nearby and then realized I could hear the same song playing on several other radios in apartments around me. The song was Summer in the City by John Sebastian and The Loving Spoonfuls, released in 1966 when I was 12 years old.

It was the first time I ‘felt’ music. To this day all I have to do on a hot summer day is close my eyes and I am 12 again, feeling the heat of the city and hearing the sound of the music from the radios that day and that song being played over and over again.

Evelyn Marrero Davila
October 14, 2009